Forced Perspective

This week, I am continuing my post on special effects. Elizabeth loved last week’s post so much, she recommended I write about forced perspective.

So, What is it?

It’s a technique that makes objects appear closer, farther away, smaller, or larger than the actual size.  It’s used a lot in architecture and photography, and not so much in modern day filmmaking.

In the photo below, because the woman is way in the background, she appears smaller than the man in the foreground. Our brain evaluates the surroundings and reads this image simply as someone in the distance,  until our subjects manipulate our perception with their hand placement. Of course, photoshopping a little shadow for the lady will confuse our brains even more.

Photo: Alexandre Duarte

It’s quite fun, and it’s definitely used more for comedy than any other genre. Surf the internet and you will find hundreds of people “holding up” the Leaning Tower of Pisa or they’re “carrying” the sun or moon. Check out this site for some amazing uses of this technique.

Now, from the link above, there are some so-so representations. If you want your photos to work really well and you want to execute the illusion, use these tips:

  1. Foreground and background subjects should be in relative focus. Get yourself a depth of field calculator, you’ll find it very handy. I have one as an app for my smartphone; but you can use a free online version or buy one here.
  2. Your subjects should have the same level of illumination. When one subject is darker/lighter than the other, it’s harder to trick the audience.  Now, more than likely, to get that deep focus, you will be closing down the iris, so the sun will be your best light source. If you are using artificial lighting, remember to refer to my post on inverse-square law (you see, I write these posts for a reason, LOL).

So, that’s it, try it on your next vacation or the next time you’re in the park. I’d love to see some photos,

Fell free to leave a comment or ask any questions. Good luck!



Peter Pechacek is a photographer and filmmaker in Orlando, Florida. He contributes weekly on Techie Tuesday.